Health & Fitness

How to avoid – or alleviate – a hangover

It’s a time-honored tradition to raise a glass and propose a toast on New Year’s Eve to auld acquaintance. But people do tend to raise more than one.

In the spirit of avoiding the pain of over-imbibing, we offer some expert advice to help prevent – or, if necessary, to ease – a post-New Year’s hangover.

“The best remedy is don’t drink too much,” advises Guy Bower, Wichita’s bon-vivant host of “The Good Life” radio show, which delves into fine wine and food. While many people know their limits, it may also help to know that federal guidelines say that women should have no more than one drink a day and men no more than two. (Men have a higher percentage of water in their bodies, which dilutes the liquor.)

And, of course, people who drink should not drive. One drink is enough to cause a hangover in some people, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Hydration is one of the most important things to prevent a hangover. The practice of drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage is a good one, said John Kraft, a pharmacist and pharmacy care liaison with Clifton Family Medicine in Wichita.

“It keeps the hydration level up, and spaces out your dosing,” he said.

There’s a reason Kraft uses the word “dosing” – and it’s not just because he’s a pharmacist.

“We’re talking about drugs,” he said. “That’s the way people need to realize it. They need to realize there’s a reason moderation makes sense. It’s because our system, our liver has limitations of how much they can handle.”

The liver is crucial because it is constantly washing our blood, Kraft said. Enzymes in the liver change the alcohol to a different chemical that can be eliminated by the kidneys. In the cases of chronic drinking, a change takes place in the liver that affects its ability to function.

Alcohol affects the body in other ways, too, producing stomach acid and stomachaches, causing the blood sugar to fall and leading to weakness, expanding the blood vessels and causing headaches, the Mayo Clinic’s website says. A hangover can last 24 hours, according to the website.

So what to do when you decide to drink?

“Before you go to bed, drink as much water as you can,” Bower said. “Even if that means you have to get up in the middle of the night. Then drink more water.” (As a side note, when you wake up and your mouth “tastes like Army boots have walked across your tongue,” Bower recommends something like mint Tums, Mentos or Tic Tacs.)

Then, “carbs are really good,” said Sharedi Haines, who tends bar at Larkspur and Mort’s in Old Town. “You crave salt, like pickles, and carbs.” Pickle juice is a folk remedy whose vinegar, salt and water are said to help rehydrate and replenish electrolyte and sodium levels.

Bower said his drink of choice the morning after is Diet Pepsi – 44 ounces of it.

“A fountain Diet Pepsi, it’s a miracle. I don’t know how that works for my body. Maybe it’s psychological – I don’t know,” he said.

What you probably don’t want to drink are sugary beverages such as Gatorade, Kraft said. And “some people think, I need a cup of coffee,” he said, but caffeine acts as a diuretic, adding to the removal of water from the body.

And while some people drink “the hair of the dog” – more alcohol – to try to chase a hangover, it only postpones the worst symptoms, which occur when blood-alcohol levels drop to zero, according to the website WebMD.

For a headache, Kraft said, it’s important to avoid Tylenol (acetaminophen) when alcohol is in the system, because the two compete for the same pathway through the liver, which can result in liver damage. If you want to take a pain reliever, turn to aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), Kraft said.

To relieve a hangover, the Mayo Clinic website also advises simply going back to bed.

“If you sleep long enough,” it says, “your hangover may be gone when you awaken.”

May all your problems of 2015 be resolved so easily.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.